Last week, I traveled to Atlanta for the first time. The purpose of the trip was to initiate the process for obtaining my Nigerian passport. My dad accompanied me on the trip because he needed his passport renewed. My boyfriend, PJ, tagged along for the trip during the weekend portion, and had the opportunity to meet my dad and enjoy Atlanta with us. I heard that Atlanta is iconic for many reasons. It is home to famous actors, musicians, and artists, known for its vibrant and eclectic culture, and is bursting with a long-standing history. During my 5-day stay, I observed, absorbed, and reminisced on what I have come to learn about this major Southern city. Here are my Atlanta Travel Guide with takeaways:
The Deep South: This was my first time in Atlanta and as most know, Atlanta is considered a “Deep South” state. The only other “Deep South” state I have traveled to prior was Louisiana, and that state has its own unique charm and presence. I went in 2015, so I was a decent amount younger than the woman I am today. I believe now that I am in my mid-20s, and collected an abundance of life experiences up until now, I was more keen to understand what the Deep South truly means, in all its facets. The South is much more than the quintessential “Southern accent” that people far and wide attempt to imitate. It is filled with an expressive culture, impeccable food, and a captivating history, that I only scratched the surface of in my 5-day stay.
HOTLANTA: It was borderline uncomfortably hot for me in Atlanta, and I was not mentally prepared for the heat wave that ensued. On the plane, I was wearing semi-thick jogger pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a puffer jacket. Once I stepped out of the Atlanta airport, I was abruptly shook by how the temperature differed from San Francisco in multiple ways. It was humid, stand-still air, and most days topped 90 degrees, making exploring around the city an obstacle with the heat.
Covid: In the midst of the pandemIc, Atlanta seems to be unfazed. As we walked around, a majority of people were not wearing masks, so we were hyper-cautious of our surroundings and heightened our social distancing and sanitizing regimen. We were still able to enjoy ourselves and partake in all the activities we set out to do, in a safe manner.
Southern hospitality: I was greeted and charmed by all types of people in Atlanta. It was the complete opposite candor of what i’ve experienced in some other cities in the country. From the restaurant waiters, doormen, and cleaning staff I interacted with throughout my time in ATL, I was pleasantly surprised with how genuinely kind everyone was. I greatly appreciated the phrase I heard from these individuals more than anything, “you’re welcome so much”. This would so often be said in response to my “thank you so much” that I started to pick up on it and really treasured that short but meaningful interaction. Their enthusiasm and endearing true southern accents made it that much more pleasant to hear.
Disparity of wealth: It was very apparent while I drove through the streets of Atlanta, that there was a clear divide between the rich and poor spaces of the city. We drove through upscale and glitzy suburbs such as Buckhead/Lenox and Midtown, and also traveled through the run-down and gritty parts of Downtown Atlanta. My dad took me to the outskirts of Atlanta, including Conyers and College Park, and I was stunned by the massive houses with large backyards, cold-a-sacks, expansive front lawns, and 3-car garages, all of which retail for not even a quarter of what you would pay in cities such as LA, Seattle, San Francisco, and NYC. You get a lot more for your money in Atlanta than most cities that I have come fond of over the years. As we know, the dollar stretches far in the cities with a lower cost of living. I recently learned that the minimum wage in Georgia is a shocking $5.15 and the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Think about that long and hard. I was able to see first-hand how people in that area live, and my privilege truly set in. Although there are many obstacles I battle on a daily basis with race and gender, I am grateful and humbled by the fact that I did not have to struggle socio-economically. I definitely recognize that I am privileged to live where I live, get the education I did, and maintain my current lifestyle. This reality challenged me to be more introspective about what I am coming to the table with, and what other bring with them, because most often it is not the same. At the end of the day we are all human and should treat each other with such respect. It is everyone’s job to recognize the differences and be able to appropriately navigate them while simultaneously demonstrating a care for humanity.
Money is present here, don’t be fooled. PJ and I walked through Midtown to find pockets bustling restaurants where all patrons valeted their expensive cars, stepped into the swanky restaurants dawning their Chanel bags, Balenciaga shoes, Prada dresses, Rolex watches, Yeezys, and the like. Girl gangs, to bro squads, to husband/wife outings, it was evident these people were dripping in money. It was nice to see an abundance of wealth and success in a black-dominated area.
Throughout my trip, one thought continuously resurfaced: “Atlanta: where the minority is the majority”. The trip expanded my knowledge of race, in many avenues. When you think about all of the most well-known cities in the country, whether you tap into it or not, blacks have always been considered the minority, and therefore we often feel as though we are “tip-toeing” through white spaces. Atlanta is the first city I have ever gone to, that I feel completely comfortable being black. I felt like I belonged. I can without a doubt say that in all the spaces I inhabited over the course of this trip, I felt, for the first time in my life, that I was not objectified by the color of my skin. I was liberated by that same fact. I felt that I could navigate freely through the city, and feel as though there was a safe haven that the black history of Atlanta provided. It brought me back to my roots and offered me a space to tap into my blackness to an extent that I have always felt shut off too. People were singing and dancing in the streets, reciting poetry, creating music, curating art. It was black joy on display, and it was a beautiful sight to see, and I wanted to raise awareness of that in this Atlanta Travel Guide!
Atlanta is known for many things, and food is at the top of the list! Some of the most famous restaurants in the country reside here, and I was so excited to have the opportunity to try them! Here is a list of the food I tried (& loved!): Atlanta Breakfast Club, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Thumbs Up Diner, West Egg Cafe, Aurora Coffee, and Bones.
Atlanta is the home for many iconic sights; it’s truly a visitor’s paradise. Sights visited: MLK Jr. National Historic Site, Centennial Olympic Park, Midtown neighborhood, Skyline Park, Little 5 Points neighborhood, Whiskey Blue Viewpoint, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, CNN Center, 9 Mile Station, Ponce City Market, Mercedes Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, World of Coco-Cola, and Georgia Aquarium
Want to see my Atlanta Travel Guide experiences come to life? Check out my Youtube video below!
Enjoy this Atlanta Travel Guide? Check these out!